Hedwig the Owl is Recovering at South Shore Natural Science Center After Eye Surgery
Visitors to South Shore Natural Science Center will notice something missing from the center's exhibits after a popular owl was removed from public display following eye surgery.
Hedwig, a barred owl who has entertained visitors for more than nine years, nearly scratched her eyelid off last weekend.
'We have no idea what happened,' said Karen Kurkoski, the center's animal curator. 'My best guess is a bug or some other irritant flew into her eye and she ripped at it with her talons.'
Without an eyelid, Hedwig, who lost sight in her other eye from glaucoma, couldn't cover the eye to moisten or clean it.
'It would have been exposed and deteriorated, which would have left her totally blind,' Kurkoski said. 'Then we would have had to euthanize her.'
Kurkoski praised cooperation between local animal organizations in saving Hedwig, who is one of a declining number of barred owls in Massachusetts.
Most live in the western part of the state, where there are larger parcels of woodlands, said Gregory Mertz, a veterinarian at New England Wildlife Center in Weymouth, where Hedwig was initially examined on Tuesday.
'They like woodlands of more than an acre or two,' Mertz said, 'but as suburbs break those into smaller parcels, their habitat goes down.'
Mertz immediately realized Hedwig's treatment was beyond his skill level and took her across the street to VCA South Shore Animal Hospital, where ophthalmologist William Greentree broke away from a less critical surgery to treat the owl.
'I was really glad to be able to step in and help when a community celebrity was in trouble,' said Greentree, whose son took a liking to Hedwig during a preschool program at the science center.
Greentree, who said he rarely treats owls, performed a delicate, 90-minute surgery to secure the eyelid.
'A lot of it was done with magnification, but at the end of the day we got it back together,' he said.
Hedwig was resting at the science center Wednesday night with few visible signs of her injury. But, she will remain out of the public eye for at least a week.
'The nice thing about eyelids is they are very resilient,' Greentree said. 'If you can get them back together, they can tolerate a lot of damage.'